Have you ever had fresh pork before? I mean pork so fresh, that it was living just two days ago. Unless you know the farmer, it’s hard to know how fresh it is. Until eight months ago, I’d never had pork that was grown and harvested within a 25-mile radius of where I lived. One of the main benefits of eating local food is superior quality, because it’s super-fresh. After I speaking with Val Kaneshiro, herd manager for Kaneshiro Farms, I learned about a trick that major pork producers use.
Globally, people eat pork more than any other meat. In 2005, the world’s population ate 90 million metric tons of pork. China is the largest producer, producing nearly four times as much as the U.S., who in 2000, had fewer than 100,000 pork producing farms. American farms are concentrated in the Corn Belt states and in North Carolina.
If you buy pork, (or any meat) from a grocery store, its probably been shipped long-distances to your nearest grocer. In Hawaii’s case, that’s over 4,000 miles.
“‘Pumped pork’ is a term used by companies who tenderize their meat by adding a sodium phosphate solution,” says Valerie. “This waters down the flavor, gives meat a slimy texture, and reduces shelf life.” It also adds water weight, bulking up the price per pound. I like to buy pump-free pork, and brine it myself.
M & H Kaneshiro Farms, in Omao on Kauai’s sunny westside, is a small family farm that has been growing and selling fresh island pork since 1920. Right now, there are 125 sows housed in open buildings with a floor underneath, and a roof overhead.
You can find their pork at all Times/Big Save stores, Ishihara Market in Waimea, and Sueoka Store in Koloa. Kaneshiro pork is identified by the Kauai Grown label, except for Big Save stores, who uses their own labels. Valerie tells me deliveries are made on Tuesdays and Fridays, so plan to go then because this pork goes fast. Some local families buy whole hogs and cook them in an imu.
Besides the incredible flavor, I like the value in Kaneshiro pork. It sells for about $6 a pound. You can get two pork chops for around $5 (depending on which store), that are about a half-inch thick. They also have a good a half-inch lining of beautiful white fat, and thanks to a suggestion from my farmer friend Levi, I make chicharrón, or homemade pork rinds.
Before I cook the pork chops, I trim off the skin and fat. The skin doesn’t cook well, so I throw it away and cut the fat into half-inch squares. I put the fat in a small, cold sauce pan, and turn the heat on low—about 3 on my stove. After 45 minutes, the fat melts, and leaves a crunchy rind behind that’s fun to snack on. I store the rendered lard in an airtight container in the fridge, and use it when sautéing, frying potatoes, making biscuits, gravy, or pretty much wherever I use oil.
Before you get all freaked out, here’s a couple of paragraphs from the Agriculture Society website:
“Regardless of its unseemly reputation, lard is a gorgeous food. There are so many uses for it, it’s hard to know where to begin. All across the Old World In European countries like Britain, Italy, France, Hungary, Romania, Budapest, Germany, Poland, The Czech Republic, and Scandinavian countries, people used lard in everyday cooking from desserts to casseroles to pate, in the preservation of pickles and vegetables, in doughs, to being spread on bread with paprika. Lard was used especially in places where dairy products were scarce. In Japan and China it has been used mixed in with rice and soy sauce. Just like in European and Asian countries, lard has also been historically used for generations on the North American continent in the U.S., Canadian provinces and territories, and in Mexico in seasonal dishes, to season meats and vegetables, stews, one-pot meals, in beans and rice. Similar uses have been employed in South America, Africa, New Zealand, and Australia as a foundational staple for all types of cooking.
“Lard from hogs on pasture is a rich source of Vitamin D, something the majority of the population is sorely lacking in. Many people don’t know that as well as containing healthy saturated fat and cholesterol – which our bodies need to maintain skin, brain, and immune health, it’s also a good way to get monounsaturated fats which are known for their cardiovascular benefits and also found in healthy foods such as red meat, whole milk, olive oil, avocados, and nuts.”
The restaurant 22 North was a dedicated farm-to-table establishment with lush landscaping and its own garden. Unfortunately, it closed last January. Before it closed, I got to try chef de cuisine Aaron Leikam’s food. I think he’s one of the top five chefs on Kauai. Aaron shared his recipe for Kaneshiro Farms pork chops, which are brined overnight making them extra juicy. This is slow food at it’s best, and even though it looks complicated, it’s easy to make. You can make the dressing and onion marmalade the day before, just let the marmalade come to room temperature before plating.
Chef Leikam’s Kaneshiro Farms Pork Chop with Kauai Kunana Dairy Goat Cheese Grits, Red Onion Marmalade and Mustard Dressing
7 cups Water
2 ½ cups Honey
½ cup Salt
2 Cinnamon Sticks
6 Kaneshiro Farms double cut pork chops
Bring contents to a boil and cool to room temperature. Place center cut pork chops in a glass container and pour brine over. Cover and let set overnight. Grill pork chops until they reach an internal temperature of 140.
Kauai Kunana Dairy Goat Cheese Grits
3 cups water
1cup Alber’s quick grits
salt and pepper to your taste
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 cup Kauai Kunana Dairy goat cheese
Combine the water and grits in a 2 quart pot, stir and bring to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in salt, pepper, butter and Reggiano.
2 quarts mayonnaise
1 ½ bottle ketchup
½ cup Guldon’s mustard
½ cup whole grain mustard
1 ½ cups pickle relish
2TBS tarragon, chopped
2TBS parsley, chopped
4 hard-boiled eggs, grated
3 cups sour cream
Tabasco, salt and pepper to your taste
Combine all ingredients and whisk thoroughly, check for seasoning and add salt, pepper and Tabasco to suit your taste
Red Onion Marmalade
2 pounds red onions, sliced
¼ tsp salt
1 bay leaf
1 cup red wine
3TBS balsamic vinegar
Cook Onions in oil, covered until, dry. Stir in honey and cook for 5 minutes. Add bay leaf and red wine reduce liquid until thick and syrupy. Add balsamic vinegar and reduce until syrupy. Check seasonings and add salt to your liking.
Divide the grits onto six plates, spooning each serving onto the center of the plate. Brush the grilled pork chops with the mustard dressing and place on top of the grits, top with the red onion marmalade. Enjoy!